The L Word | The Trilemma of Christ

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Matthew 16: 13-20 — Focus Verse – “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?'”

I was on a flight back from New Orleans listening to Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and heard the famous trilemma of Christ (choice between three alternatives)…

The Trilemma of Christ

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

CS Lewis is touching a subject that has probably been discussed over dinner tables for over 2000 years. In between Thanksgiving side dishes, we all have that family member that has to let everyone know what they think about this hot button topic. The name Jesus brings many views and opinions, and while many may not be spoken, people have their perception in their minds. Lewis’ trilemma of Lunatic, Liar or Lord does an excellent job of covering everyone at our open table.


“Who Do You Say That I Am?”

Let’s change the scene to hear from one of the disciples and what they think of Jesus. As we see in our scripture verse, Jesus is asking Peter two questions about who he is. Jesus asked Peter, who do people say I am? He gives Peter room to answer in a general sense of what people in the area consider Jesus to be. Then Jesus gets laser focused and asks Peter, “But who do you say that I am?” I wonder if Peter went from an informative conversation with Jesus to feeling nervous about being put on the spot.

In true Peter form, he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” For all of Peter’s faults in the Bible, here lies one of the purest descriptions of Jesus and I thank Peter for setting a bold example for us to follow.

Let’s look at what Jesus has to say about Peter’s answer in verse 17 – “Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

When we proclaim that Jesus is who He says He is, there is a blessing to be had there. I would encourage you to read the rest of the story in Matthew 16: 13 – 28.


Author: Tj Todd is the CEO of Studio490 Creative Services and Creative Director of UNCOMMEN.



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